CAFE: A gathering place. A place of refreshment.
Monday, March 31, 2008
My finished novel (which I am shopping) is set in the 1950s—my favorite music era. I used a few familiar titles in the novel, but more than that, it’s a feeling of the times—the birth of rock and roll, a time of change. This plays out in the journey my young character takes. And the title was inspired by the lyrics in an old Rod McKuen song. Without telling you more than that here, my point is that music plays a vital role in my writing. Music evokes emotion which triggers something creative in my brain. Or takes me to deep, evocative places of laughter, joy, or tears.
Mostly tears. Worship songs with the words glory or nail-scarred hands or old rugged cross tug at my heart each time I hear them, but I also am moved by golden oldies on TV commercials or the radio. Sometimes a jazz number digs deep and uncovers the desire to dance in the kitchen with my hubby (oh the joy!). I believe we were created to respond to the melodic as well as the spoken word. It touches something within our very souls. I simply cannot imagine a church service without music, a world with song. Like words, it is a universal communicator and link to other human beings.
At Mount Hermon earlier this month, hymns, choruses, and special music played a daily part in connecting people of diverse backgrounds through worship. One day at lunch, a woman I’d never heard of was introduced and took her place at the grand piano. She adjusted the mike boom and began playing an unfamiliar song. The artist? Sally Klein O’Connor. The song? Come Meet The Author of Life. The lyrics and the lilting melody, touched with the haunting message of mercy and the welcoming arms of God, brought a lump in my throat as well as the usual tears. By the end of the song, the air seemed thick with the presence of God. No words were needed as those of us at our lunch table made eye contact, an unspoken agreement that we were touched by the fresh, transparent performance of a woman who, without a doubt, had met the Author of life. She has an amazing life story that is reflected in her songs.
Later, I purchased one of Sally’s CDs in the bookstore (available here) and have since spent several pleasant listening hours. The songs pierce the heart with words and melodies so beautiful they almost hurt. That’s what I want my writing to do. Touch hearts. Make someone smile or forget for a moment the troubles of this world. And thanks to artists like Sally, who bring music to life, I have an endless stream of inspiration.
How about you? Do you have a special song or favorite artist that inspires you? That makes you want to write heart-wrenching prose or just be a better person? I’d love to hear from you.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
The support and friendships I garnered there as well as knowlege about crafting fiction and the publishing industry were absolutely crucial in helping me get to a point of being publishable. Both in the development of my fictional characters and in the betterment of my craft. The forums there are free to join and there are readers and writers alike. It's a great place for both readers and aspiring writers to interact with their favorite authors.
Another helpful community is http://www.acfw.com/ (American Christian Fiction Writers) and Romance Writers of America. The dues are well worth it and the conferences are invaluable. Networking in this industry is a must in my opinion. That can happen online, sure, but there's nothing that beats a face to face meeting with editors, agents and fellow authors. I am a part of the Faith, Hope and Love Chapter as well as a military writer's group called Romancing the Military Soul. All of these as well as my local writers' group.
I encourage every aspiring author out there to get support from somewhere. It is so important to have people (other than family members) review your work so they can give you an honest, unbiased "cold read." Meaning your friends and family may love you too much to see errors in your writing. Plus, we are all blind to our own trouble spots.
Another great support group is a blog I contribute to called The Seekers http://www.seekerville.blogspot.com/
With that, I'd also like to take a moment to talk about digital marketing.
This group was birthed out of several unpublished authors who, for years, finalled against each other in contest after contest. One of us started contacting the rest of us. We decided to band together and start praying each other into publication. SInce that time, half of us have contracted! So, even if you don't have time to maintain a blog of your own, you might consider banding together with a few other writers so you each can begin to develope a Web presence, even before you are published. Digital marketing (I believe) is a wave of the future, and it's important to start getting your name out there and creating buzz. Having a group blog takes the pressure off each individual person to have to come up with three to five blogs a week. One thing you don't want to do is let that overtake your writing time. I use blogger but there are many other free blog hosting sites.
Publication is HARD! But not impossible. And especially not if you decide early on that you're not gonna give up for anything. Praying for all you aspiring writers out there. I'm proof that it CAN happen.
Carla here: Cheryl's second book in her Wings of Refuge series is making a big splash. You can win a copy here by leaving a comment with your contact information. NOTE: Cheryl has graciously agreed that international entrants are welcome!! Woo-hoo! All you readers from Canada, New Zealand, and Timbuktu may now join in the fray! Before you do, I'd like to share a little more about Cheryl and her book, A Soldier's Family.
Or her blog http://www.scrollsquirrel.blogspot.com/
ISBN: 037387474XPublisher: Steeple HillOrdering Link: Order now!
Saturday, March 22, 2008
This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar. Based on the above, the earliest date that Easter can fall on is March 22, but that is pretty rare.
Here’s the interesting part. This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives. And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early—those dear saints who are 95 years old or more! Consider the facts:
The next time Easter will fall on March 23 will be the year 2228—220 years from now. The last time it was this early was 1913. So only those 95 or older were around for that.
The next time Easter will fall on March 22 will be in 2288—277 years from now. The previous date when it fell on March 22 was 1818. Betcha no one today was around then.
No matter what day Easter falls on based on human calculations, I am thankful that Jesus is the SAME yesterday, today, and forever. HE IS RISEN!
A blessed Easter to you and yours.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
It’s easy to see why writers want to experience “The Mount.” It’s such a rich learning environment. I attended Angela Hunt’s continuing morning track—The Sophisticated Novelist. Impressive, huh? The amazing, warm and funny Angie really knows her stuff. I’m reading one of her novels now (Doesn’t She Look Natural?), and I can hear Angie’s voice in the words. She taught her famous “plot skeleton” and gave us homework assignments every night to apply to our works in progress. A very hands-on, beneficial series. Love that Angie!
One of the highlights was the much-touted “debate” between Nick Harrison, editor at Harvest House, and James Scott Bell, best-selling suspense author. Nick extolled the virtues of character-driven novels, while Jim insisted that it wasn’t a story until you had a plot. A lot of good-natured sparring. The winner? Hard to say. Kind of like “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
Other workshops that I enjoyed were Andy McGuire’s “Surprised by Details” and Cindy Martinusen’s “Puzzle Method: The Out of Order Way to Write.” There were some very good panels from editors, agents, and an amazing session by Sue Brower of Zondervan about writing popular fiction. Some tips from Sue Brower: The marketplace is reader driven. Publishing is a business. There is a place for unique and innovative writing that gives the readers what they want. And last of all, a book that creates “buzz” is an editors dream.
For me: What I learned at Mount Hermon has brought me closer to my dream. I just want to write beautiful prose that gives readers hope in this sometimes crazy world. I’ve been privileged to have the inspiration and instruction. Now it’s time to get back at it—polishing my sentences, filling in those plot holes. And being thankful that I can do what I love so much.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
First, I must tell you that my goal in going to Mount Hermon was not to land an agent or gain a contract (although that would have been nice), but to connect with people—fellow writers, famous authors, or just a lonely soul who needed encouragement. I hoped to merge online names with faces and real voices, and to glean insight and wisdom from those in the publishing industry. Most of all, I wanted God to orchestrate the outcome. As usual, God did not disappoint.
Here are a few of the Mount Hermon characters—some fellow conferees.
Myra Johnson. My critique partner and friend who traveled with me, shared my room, and showed me the ropes since she’d been to MH twice before. She also tolerated my quirks, prayed with me, and is the best friend a writer could have. (pic below with me and Camille)
Connie Turner. A lovely, funny, and brave lady who came to MH to see what direction God would have for her as she journeys through an unusual form of cancer. You can read more about her here. As we filled out the forms on our arrival at MH, she quipped, “This is like going to Space Camp!” Indeed it was. They just didn’t let us man the space shuttle :-)
Denise and Dan Harmer. Cute, friendly couple whose joint writing venture is for Gen-X-ers. Our lives intersected frequently, and more than once I heard, “Hi Carla” ring out across the MH campus, followed by a wave from Denise and Dan. Oh man, I miss them already.
Camille Eide. A friend from the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers who is sprouting her writing wings. Something in the air at MH injected her with confidence as she gathered her nerve to make editor appointments. Guess what? She received two requests for proposals. Way to go, Camille.
Donald James Parker. Another writing friend from ECFL who I enjoyed meeting face to face. Camille, Don, Myra, and I met up often in Angie Hunt’s Sophisticated Novelist morning track.
Susan Mackinnon. A quiet, engaging lady from British Colombia with a heart for sharing a story about healing in the midst of tragedy (A Tapestry of Grace). I am blessed to know Susan.
Suzie Austin. From Houston. Don’t you love that? A pastor’s wife and writer. Suzie prayed with me at breakfast one morning about an editor she thought would like my story. He did, and I will be sending him a proposal. Thank you, Suzie. PS: She looks way too young to have such spiritual wisdom.
Honestly, I could go on and on and on. I pretty much have. To others I met, my life is richer for having met you. Virginia Schneider, who confessed her fears to me. Hayley Cox, an adorable teen writer who loves fantasy. Ezekiel, a teen poet from LA who delighted us all and was the youngest recipient ever of the Mount Hermon Poetry Award. Sarah Sundin, whose heart beats with writing WW II historicals. Pam Halter, a children’s writer who I know from The Writer’s View 2.
My first goal in going to Mount Hermon exceeded all my expectations. If meeting these wonderful, writerly people was all that happened, it would have been enough. A great deal more transpired, though, and I will share some of that with you tomorrow . . . and more pictures!
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Great news. I am ready. Ready for whatever God has for me this week. Ready for the mountain air and to walk among the giant redwoods. Ready to breathe in the inspiration and restore my sense of balance in this crazy writing world. And . . . accept the challenges laid before me.
It reminds me of a similar feeling several years ago when I was chosen to attend the Guideposts Writers Workshop in Rye, NY. The setting—an historic chateau on Long Island Sound—took my breath away. Lush green lawns rolled down to the water’s edge, inviting us to sit for a moment of reflection. Five days of classes, getting to know the other participants, working, eating, and praying together flew by in a blur. I came away trembling with possibilities, a bevy of new friends, and confident that my writing had promise.
That’s my goal for Mount Hermon. Recharge my writerly instincts. Connect in new ways with writers, teachers, agents, and editors. Listen for God’s voice.
I’ll be taking a break from blogging while I’m away, but promise a full report when I get back. Hopefully, I’ll get some good pictures, too. Y’all behave while I’m gone.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
All at once, my heart grew homesick to get a hug from that sweet boy. He and his brother live in another state, and we won't see them until the first part of April. So, for fun, I'm posting a few pics--some of my favorite crazy shots. They make me laugh, and just remembering the special times we've had, I long for the next time I see them.
These are the important things in life, folks. And to my guys, Mimi will see you soon.
PS: We have a wee granddaughter also, and before we know it, she'll be luring us with her charms, too. I can't wait!
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
It's been a joy to have a front-row seat in Denice's publishing journey. Yes, it does take as long as all the stories you hear. Yes, I'm certain that for Denice and all of us, it's been worth the wait. Can't you see it on her face as she holds her first book "baby"? I wish I could take credit for some small part of Denice's book, but the only thing I did was give birth to a son who had the brilliance to marry a writer. From all of us in the Stewart family - Way to go, Denice!